October 31, 2010

Minoru hodo Atama no Sagaru Inaho Kana " The mature rice plant lowers its head "

Maturity brings humility and respect for others.

When rice is mature and ready to harvest, the heaviness at the top of the plant pulls it down low to the ground. Japanese see this as analogous to how the wisdom of years fills a man with fumility and caused his head to bow heavily in his dep respect for life and nature.

October 30, 2010

Koroganu Ishi ni Koke Musazu " A stone that rolls gathers no moss."

For the Japanese, moss is something to be admired. Associated with beauty, moss grows rocks and in pathways of old temples in places like Kyoto. Yet the stone that continues to tumble will never have moss. So this expression is often used to admonish others to stay put, to continue on in the same job. Ironicaally, this expression is also used by somme Japanese to mean the very opposite, i.e., the meaning understood by Americans: keep moving or you'll get old.

October 29, 2010

Iwanu ga Hana " Not saying is the flower "

Since one can never really "Take back" what one says, there is a high premium on thinking things through before opening one's mouth. Much harm and nonsense can result from ill-chosen words. Thus the philosophical observation that " Not saying is the flower."

October 28, 2010

Imo(no Ko) o Arau Yoo " like washing potatoes "

Summer weekends at the beach in Japan are impossible. The beaches are so crowded that you can hardly make space for your beach mat. When hordes of people play in the waist-deep ocean waters, wave after wave jostles them into each other. This commotion resembles a wooden bucketful of potatoes sloshing around while being washed by the agitator. Usage is restricted to water-related scenes.

October 27, 2010

Hana yori Dango " Sweets are preferred to flowers."

The practical is preferred over the aesthetic.

Every spring on the day of " flower viewing," Japanese traditionally travel to the countryside or visit parks to appreciate the beauty of nature. Yet human nature being what it is, people seem to show considerably more interest in the food than in the flowers.

October 26, 2010

Hana ni Arashi " Blossoms bring storms. "

Life often brings misfortune at the time of great happiness.

This fatalistic insight is a shortened version of tsuki ni muragumo, hana ni arashi, which is literally translated, "Clouds over the moon, storm over blossims." It often seems that misfortune looms behind even the happiest moments.

October 25, 2010

Gomasuri " Sesame Grinding "

When a person makes an overtly ingratiating remark, he or she is "grinding sesame seeds". Others call attention to the gomasuri either by saying the word, by (nonverbally) making motions with the fist over the palm of the other hand(simulating the grinding of roasted sesame seeds with a pestle and mortar), or by doing both. Like the messy sesame seeds ground up in the mortar, the person seeking favor is sticking to everything(one).